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IN BRIEF The State / SAN FRANCISCO

Strip-Search Policy Ruled Unconstitutional

October 02, 2005|From Times Wire Reports

A federal judge has ruled that the city's former policy allowing new prisoners to be strip-searched, regardless of the charges against them, was unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer ruled last week that the policy, which was changed in January 2004, violated constitutional rules allowing such searches only when inmates are newly arrested on suspicion of crimes involving drugs or violence, or when guards have evidence that an inmate is concealing weapons or contraband.

Jeff Schwarzschild, a lawyer for inmates who challenged the policy, said Friday that the ruling applies to as many as 27,000 people strip-searched at the city's reception jail between April 2002 and January 2004. He said settlements in other strip-search cases have amounted to about $1,000 per inmate.

But Deputy City Atty. David Newdorf said the judge had narrowed the suit to between 7,000 and 9,000 inmates and allowed jail officials to try to show justification for some searches.

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